At least five people were killed in the early morning hours Tuesday when a charter bus they were traveling in veered off the freeway in California’s Central Valley and struck a sign pole. The collision sheared the bus in half almost to its middle.
The California Highway Patrol said the charter bus was traveling from Mexico to Washington state when it veered off Highway 99 near Livingston in the Central Valley around 3:35 a.m.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, CHP Officer Moises Onsurez described the collision as “catastrophic.” At least five people, including driver Mario David Vasquez, 57, of Los Angeles, sustained “major injuries” and were rushed to area hospitals for treatment. Some of the injured passengers had missing limbs, USA Today reported. There were about 30 passengers aboard the bus.
The bus is registered to Autobuses Coordinados USA Inc., which maintains an office in East Los Angeles, according to California Department of Motor Vehicles records.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) records show that the bus company has racked up 44 safety violations concerning vehicle maintenance and exceeds the FMCSA intervention threshold for maintenance safety. This means that regulators prioritized the carrier for a safety intervention action and roadside inspection.
The bus crash remains under investigation and the cause has not been determined. Investigators will analyze the bus for evidence of mechanical malfunction in addition to external factors such as weather and traffic, and human error, including potential driver distraction and fatigue.
The Los Angeles Times went to the bus company office and reported that “Signs near the Autobuses Coordinados area read ‘Airport, Tijuana every hour’ in Spanish, and displayed travel locations, including Northern California, Oregon and Washington, including the city of Pasco (Washington).”